January 29, 2018 10:50 PM
Several Minnesota lawmakers have submitted a letter to Minnesota's transportation head that is critical of a rest stop renovation they say includes unexpected higher costs.
The letter to Minnesota Department of Transportation Commissioner Charles Zelle was signed by Reps. Anne Neu, R-North Branch, Jason Rarick, R-Pine City and Brian Johnson, R-Cambridge.
All three lawmakers represent the Chisago County area. In the letter, they ask Zelle, in part, why MnDOT chose a bid for the Goose Creek rest stop restoration which includes "curved glass, imported Brazilian wood and a wood veneer ceiling instead of traditional, less expensive ceiling tile."
The letter also asks Zelle to answer several questions about the bid process and what was being done to keep potential cost overruns from occurring in the future. And they sought to find out whether cost-cutting measures could still be taken for the project, which is not yet finished.
The rest area is the east side of Interstate 35, just a few miles north of North Branch.
Construction has already begun, which includes tearing down the old rest stop building and replacing it with a new facility.
Neu said she was "shocked" to see MnDOT accepted a bid for the project at nearly $7.2 million, when the original budget for the project was estimated at $4.5 million.
"I could not believe it because what we have here is an opulent facility that has imported Brazilian wood, curved glass and an expensive wood ceiling for a facility that is really just a place for people to pull over and rest and maybe use a bathroom," Neu said. "We have not yet received a response from Commissioner Zelle, but we are hoping we can still save some of the money and have cheaper alternatives used."
Neu sits on the House Transportation Policy Committee and said MnDOT used Trunk Highway money which, in her opinion, is not an efficient use of dedicated tax money.
"This is a careless use of the Trunk Highway funds because it is millions of dollars on an overpriced facility, and really should be millions of taxpayers' dollars being used to build roads and bridges," Neu said.
KSTP asked MnDOT for a response to the lawmakers' concerns; a spokesperson said the state agency is working on a response and would provide it sometime Tuesday.
Updated: January 29, 2018 10:50 PM
Created: January 29, 2018 09:08 PM
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